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Mexican Grand Prix funding diverted to Mayan Train project

Another federal project is halted to help pay for Yucatan infrastructure project

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Kimi Raikkonen of Finland drives at the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Oct. 28, 2018 in Mexico City. Photo: Getty Images

It’s out with Formula One race cars and in with the Mayan Train.

That’s the picture after the Mexican government announced it will pull funding for the country’s annual Grand Prix to bankroll the new railway project on the Yucatan Peninsula.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has also said that he would close the ProMexico agency and reallocate its budget to the train project. ProMexico, with offices in several countries, was tasked with bringing international investment to the country.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told reporters that there would be no more federal funding for the Mexican Grand Prix beyond this year’s event in October.

The Mexican Grand Prix, or Gran Premio de México, is an FIA-sanctioned auto race held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.

It’s been a bumpy ride since the beginning. It first appeared as a non-championship event in 1962 before being held as a championship event in 1963–1970 and 1986–1992.

Then the famous race exited Mexico City for over a decade. Drivers began complaining about bumps on the circuit and air pollution. Rumors first surfaced in 2003 that the Mexican Grand Prix might return to the Formula One calendar at a new $70 million circuit, dubbed “Mantarraya,” near Cancun.

In 2005, the governor of Quintana Roo promised a 2006 Grand Prix, but that fizzled when a debate arose over its location.

The Grand Prix returned in 2015 at the Mexico City circuit.

Sheinbaum said that government officials are working with Formula One to find alternative financing mechanisms for future races.

The government paid a reported 400 million pesos annually to host the race, which is thought to bring in around 14.8 billion pesos in spending and media rights.

The 932-mile railway will wind its way through Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and the Yucatan, connecting popular tourist sites such as Tulum, Playa del Carmen with less crowded destinations such as the Palenque archaeological zone.

Conservationists have major concerns about the environmental impact of the railway. Its tracks would run through Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the second largest tropical forest in the Americas after the Amazon. A third of the railway will cut through jungle.

The Mayan Train’s hydrogen-powered cars cut across land belonging to indigenous communities. Those communities will have to give prior and informed consent before the estimated-US$8billion project can go ahead.

Much of the physical work has already begun in Tabasco, on existing rail lines. It started two weeks after President Lopez Obrador took office.

Lopez Obrador says indigenous communities support the project, which will provide an economic boost to impoverished communities. A public referendum on the Mayan Train received 89.9 percent support.

However, only 946,081 people took part in the poll, which represents just 0.73 percent of Mexico’s 130 million citizens.

Source: El Financiero, with background information from Wikipedia.

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